Ham&High letters: Coronavirus and Hampstead Heath Ponds

Handwashing is encouraged as a preventative measure against coronavirus. Picture: Philip Toscano/PA

Handwashing is encouraged as a preventative measure against coronavirus. Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

Don’t leave elderly loved ones to die

A senior citizen, Primrose Hill, full name and address supplied, writes:

Is “herd immunology” just a not very heavily disguised euphemism for eugenics?

I having been listening to the advice about Covid-19 repeatedly. As a senior citizen over 70-years-old, and with COPD, I am of course very vulnerable. The advice given to this group and other vulnerable people is shocking if you read the unsaid part.


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I am told to self isolate which I’m doing now anyway. If I have specific symptoms then I must isolate. And what then?

Well this the point when it becomes of interest. I had ideally hoped that given the symptoms, plus the vulnerability this would prompt an NHS nurse, suitably clad for protection, to come and put a detection kit through my letter box and later return to read the result. Given that it turns out to be the dreaded Covid-19, I had hoped that I would be taken to hospital and put in a ventilator, the only hope in my case of surviving. It is clear that no such thing is going to happen and this is that part that is left unsaid.

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Notwithstanding the fact there aren’t enough ventilators available, and those few ought to go to any young people who happens to have caught the virus, we senior citizens are just told to stay at home.

And do what?

Well here is the unsaid, it’s not in the least ambiguous. You die.

There you have it crystal clear.

Yours in trepidation.

British do not like to be told what to do

Linda Grove, Highgate Village, writes:

Having lived in China, Korea and Hong Kong, my daughter still living in Hong Kong and with friends in China and Korea, I feel that I can use that experience to write my thoughts on hygiene procedure, from the way these governments react.

One of the problems in England is that the British do not like to be told what to do, I know I don’t. But with these endemics, we lived through SARS in Hong Kong, extreme measures need to be taken in order not only for us to protect not only ourselves but places that are in our daily lives, ie clubs, supermarkets coffee shops, etc and our public facilities.

I recently visited Costco where the staff are constantly wiping the handles of the trolleys and putting gel on customers hands, brilliant example on how to behave.

We can help in our homes too if we wipe down daily places like taps and door handles where the virus can lurk. Someone comes into your home and you don’t know what they have touched in a public space, the handrail of the tube where others have touched could bring the virus into your home.

In the countries I mentioned, all public places are being wiped down with antiseptic cleaners throughout the day, not once but every few hours, people keep to the rules and stay home, wear masks etc. Masks stop you touching your face and if someone coughs or sneezes it stops the droplets touching you .

I would hope that places like the Royal Free Hospital very quickly starts by having security people at the entrances Insisting on putting gel on people’s hands when entering as should the Armory across the road from the hospital .

If we all take some responsibility within our homes and our local community we will be helping the big picture. My grandchildren in Hong Kong haven’t been to school since Chinese New Year (mid February) and are told the schools will continue to be closed until the end of April contained in their small flat. My friend in Korea tells me that all public places like the church to the swimming pools are closed but this is a nation that will stick together for the good of all to fight the coronavirus, it’s in their DNA!

Good luck, and keep safe.

Help those in isolation

Peter Rutherford, Pandora Road, West Hampstead, writes:

Coronavirus on a wide scale may well be around the corner and we should prepare for a large number of people in our area to wish to self isolate or to be expected to do so.

But how do they do so in practice?

People will need shopping, medicines, errands run, children taken to school, bills and other expenses paid and a variety of additional items to happen.

It seems a good idea for local community associations and maybe libraries to step in and, with the help of a team of volunteers, be enabled to organise in their areas.

Possibly, they could be coordinated by a Camden wide body, with the council stepping in to help with funding. Preliminary discussions should start now since this virus could expand quickly. The chairmen and managers of all the community associations in Camden could contact each other as soon as possible and get the ball rolling.

Tribute to volunteers gearing up to help

Tulip Siddiq MP, Hampstead and Kilburn, writes:

The past few days have understandably been an uncertain and worrying time for many of us.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of cases of coronavirus both here and across Europe, and the potential effect it could have has been well publicised. In order to ensure we minimise the impact that it will have, it is really important that we listen to and follow the advice of medical professionals who are experts in this field.

We also need to pull together. I know the people of Hampstead and Kilburn will - and already are - doing exactly that. I would like to pay tribute to groups like the Hampstead Volunteer Corps, the Hampstead and Kilburn Covid-19 Community Relief, Kilburn Mutual Aid and Age UK Camden who are already gearing up to help people cope with the impact of this pandemic.

It is important that we all do what we can to help the most vulnerable people in our society. We must also make sure that, in doing so, we follow the latest public health advice to avoid putting ourselves or anyone else in harm’s way.

If we follow the advice and help each other, I have no doubt that we will come through this difficult time.

Pond charges

Robert Sutherland Smith, chairman, United Swimmers Association, writes:

The age of truth, charity and social justice has passed, with the decision of the City of London to impose a compulsory £4 charge on swimmers of the Hampstead Heath ponds.

Nearly 150 years of civic generosity to the poor, hard up and troubled, who swam without charge. Succeeded by a new and ugly form of civic, “rentier” profiteering. The City of London Corporation is behaving in infamous and miserly way, in its stewardship of Hampstead Heath. Let no one ever forget that!

With regard to the swimming ponds, the City Corporation has exhibited cynicism and low cunning (camouflaging its own ineptitude in coin collection and representing that as swimmer dishonesty); holding consultations contrary to recommended local government practice and putting the rich elite above those who have difficulty in paying the weekly groceries bill; some on the minimum national wage of £8:72 an hour.

On the City’s own statistics, that will give them an operating profit margin, of about 250 per cent a swim. That is good business! A very heaven of venture capitalist profitability.In the process, they have snubbed the unanimous and wise, advice of the Hampstead Heath Consultative Committee after – year upon year – failing to co-operate with swimmers who have constantly requested a means to making philanthropic contributions, so that the Heath’s swimming ponds would remain free to the poorest of us.

Something for nothing culture out of place

Ana Truman, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

Your correspondent Emma James (Ponds, Ham &High letters) is barking up the wrong tree in suggesting Hampstead Heath and its ponds should be taken over and run according to a republican, German model of ownership.

I suspect she may be a disgruntled Remain republican!

However, that is no excuse for blatant ignorance about our British constitutional laws.

These codify ownership of certain Constitutional Monarchy assets such as the Crown Estate and Royal Charter-owned City of London, lawful proprietor of Hampstead Heath.

Many such historical UK assets have been held this way for centuries not only to preserve the national heritage but also to fund prime sites like national parks and gardens, monuments and estates.

It is thus a question of lawful ownership – something that perhaps only a coup d’etat could possibly overturn. (Hint: zero chance of that I think, given the government’s massive parliamentary majority and the nation’s recent Brexit).

Ms James has also failed to take on board that, since it took over management from the disbanded GLC, the City of London Corporation has sunk hundreds of millions of pounds into the maintenance, upkeep and security of Hampstead Heath.

This includes the £17 million for vital Ponds flood defences in 2017 – a critical move from which tens thousands of Camden residents as well as the million+ annual Heath visitors (of all nationalities, including German) have benefitted.

All this without locals being asked for a single penny in contribution – yet she begrudges swimmers being charged a fair, modest price to use the ponds, just like at the Serpentine in Hyde Park.

This something-for-nothing culture is completely out of place in our post-Brexit UK.

It costs a great deal of money to maintain the Ponds

John P Graham, Hampstead Village, writes:

Similar to Agatha Christie’s famous play The Mousetrap, the saga of paying to swim on Hampstead Heath ponds continues apace.

I’ve been following this since the first mention of the City of London Corporation’s (CoL) proposal to increase their charges and making it compulsory to pay to swim and it beggars belief that this has created so much animosity. Do people not realise that it costs a great deal of money to maintain the ponds as a safe, all-year-round and welcoming facility? Staff and lifeguards all have to be paid, ongoing maintenance of the infrastructure also costs money and compliance with statutory health and safety legislation doesn’t come cheap either.

A quick toe-in-the-water (no pun intended) mini price survey has shown that the heath ponds will still remain the cheapest at just £4.00 to access. In comparison, some other open-air swimming venues in London range from £6.15 at the Oasis in Holborn, £5 at London Fields Lido in Hackney and £4.80 at Hyde Park’s Serpentine. Or would they rather go to Ruislip Lido? Yes, it’s free to swim there, but just factor-in the cost of travel (TfL travel zone 6), up to £5 to pay for parking or a 25 minute bus journey from West Ruislip station and it will clearly be seen that, in comparison, the CoL’s charge of £4 is not excessive.

It’s only right that the ponds and all of the Heath’s other leisure facilities cover their own running costs. Clearly, in the case of the ponds, this has not been achieved. Therefore, immediate action to address this is now both timely and justified, especially at the start of the new financial year.

Fortunately, the cost of running and maintaining the ponds and all other aspects of the heath do not fall upon the ratepayers of cash-strapped Camden Council, since these are fully underwritten by the CoL.

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